Is King Estate A Haven Or Hazard For Birds?

The rolling hills of the King Estate have become a magnet for birds of all kinds

The Pavilion at King Estate. Photo: courtesy King Estate.
The Pavilion at King Estate. Photo: courtesy King Estate.

The rolling hills of the King Estate vineyards and winery south of Eugene on Territorial Road have become a magnet for birds of all kinds, from migrating songbirds to raptors, that breed, rest and feed on its sprawling acres, but some birds have been crashing into the big windows at the pavilion building.

EW reader Chris Peche attended a workshop on Buddhist compassion at the pavilion last spring and observed two robins striking the sliding glass doors. “I had mentioned to staff that the building’s design was a death trap for migrating birds,” he says. “The sooner the pavilion is bird-friendly, the easier the pinot gris will go down.”

It’s taken a while for King Estate to take any action, in part because staff observed few bird crashes and because Jessie Russell, the estate’s garden manager, was not happy with the available options last spring. Following a recent query from EW, Russell “went back and took another look and found something that works, so those are ordered and will be put up,” says Jenny Ulum, the new director of strategic communications for the winery.

“I think a few well-placed and tasteful stickers on these glass doors will provide the visual clue needed for birds to prevent these mishaps,” Russell says.

The winery with its 1,033 Oregon Tilth-certified organic acres has been working closely with the Cascade Raptor Center over the past five years, says Louise Shimmel, executive director of the Eugene-based center that rehabilitates and releases injured birds of prey such as owls and hawks. Migrating birds gobble insects while raptors dine on gophers and mice. Migrating birds can also be “pests” when they feast on ripening grapes, so the raptors keep them in check as well. Birds have become part of integrated pest management programs at King Estate, Willamette Valley Vineyards and other organic wineries, Shimmel says.

“Originally, they [King Estate] invited us out to the property to advise them on the best location for nest boxes and they then put up screech owl, kestrel and barn owl boxes,” Shimmel says. “We’ve been releasing young birds there ever since.” Vineyards in Israel have installed barn owl nest boxes to deter rodents since the 1960s and California vineyards have followed.

Winery owner Ed King acknowledges the bird crashes, including at least one hawk, and the need to look into the hazard, but he says the birds benefit overall. “Being certified organic means birds don’t have the same exposure to herbicides and pesticides. That’s why the big birds like us so much. They can have meaningful sex at King Estate.”

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